Monday, November 20, 2006

New Yorker offers exponential expansion of Chris Ware's imagination

Illustrations by comic artist and graphic novelist Chris Ware tell a story that spans 60 years and links across four different covers of The New Yorker's Thanksgiving issue, the images getting successively smaller, in what seems to be a characteristic signature of Ware's style but is also part of a larger exponential expansion. This narrative is loosely linked by detail and allusion to a longer strip by Ware that appears on the magazine's website, along with reproductions of the four covers (right). All can be enlarged, scrolled through and printed. Ware subdivides his drawings into ever finer grids, with the subdivisions being an exponential expansion of the powers of two (2 to the 0th, 1st, 2nd, 4th and 8th). As Ware explains on the MP3 interview (click to listen, or right-click to download) that's also provided at the site, the larger strip is subdivided into a grid of 256 boxes. It's the first comic, he says, that he has designed explicitly for the web, and he explains that the navigation that readers are forced to do with the scrollbars on their browsers is meant to mimic the erratic and sometimes seemingly random associations of memory.

One part of the intertwined narratives is a meditation on the slaughter of birds this time of year by Ware, a vegetarian. But the broader melancholy stream of memories surrounding the absurd, random death of a soldier in World Ware II provides a powerful commentary on the war still raging today, a reference that's all the more powerful for being understated and implicit.

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